JEKYLL ISLAND -- Darton College golf coach Dale Dover walked up to his team as the last member played the 18th hole after Friday's first round of the Region XVII Tournament in Jekyll Island and told his guys he had good news and bad news for them.
"I said, 'What do you want first? The good or the bad?' " Dover recalled. "They told me, 'We want the bad. Let's get it out of the way.' And so I said (point blank), 'Well, the bad news is you played (really bad). But the good news we're nowhere close to be out of this thing.' "
Darton, coming off a monumental victory Tuesday at the NJCAA Division I District Tournament that not only qualified the Cavs for their 10th straight trip to nationals, but made them one of the favorites going in, finished in third place after Day 1 of the region meet Friday after shooting a shaky 301.
That score wouldn't be bad in most tournaments, but Dover wasn't pleased. After all, Darton had just come off besting a field of NJCAA Division I programs -- five of which were ranked in the Top 15 in the country -- and the state tournament, which is filled with Division II teams, was supposed to be a walk in the park for this bunch. Not to mention, the Cavs have won nine straight Region XVII titles.
Leading the field is Coastal Georgia (296), followed by ABAC (300), then Darton at 301. Andrew College (316) was in last place after the first round.
"We didn't play worth a toot," Dover said. "But I give credit to ABAC -- they're much improved -- and this is Coastal's home course, so their score didn't surprise me. But we're still in the hunt."
The low score of the day for Darton belonged to freshman Shad Tuten (74), followed by sophomore leader Taylor Welborn (75). Former Byne Christian star and reigning Herald Player of the Year Spenser Ferrell was next with a 76, which was the same score posted by Thailand native Joe Sakulpolphaisan. Austin McNeill shot an 81.
Dover said he had an idea as to why his guys were struggling early.
"I think we may have been a little overconfident after that big win at districts and haven't come down yet," Dover said. "We had some lunch after our round and then went right back out to practice. We spent about two hours chipping and putting."
The tournament continues with the second today and concludes Sunday. Darton tees off at 8:20 a.m.